Bewildering Stories

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Book Review:
Paul Levinson, The Plot To Save Socrates

by Jerry Wright

The Plot To Save Socrates
Author: Paul Levinson
Publisher: TOR
Hardback: 272 pages
Price: $25.95
Paul Levinson is a fine albeit uneven writer. His Phil D'Amato SF mysteries that have appeared in Analog are fine examples of the genre. His novels have flashes of brilliance, but occasionally cause this reader to say "Hunh? That doesn't make sense." I'm willing to give Paul the benefit of the doubt and say "it might be me..." Anyway, just discovered a new novel by Paul and frankly, he is one of my "read on sight" authors.

So I grabbed The Plot To Save Socrates and read it with great pleasure. Yes, it is a time travel novel, but the time travel chairs are never really explained, powered perhaps by handwavium. It doesn't really matter. The book is a tapestry of times and characters and philosophies, as well as an excellent look at history and the effect that Socrates and his students such as Plato, and Aristotle had on the world that we see around us.

Did you know that Socrates (at least according to the writings of Plato) despised democracy, and instead much preferred the concept of "the Philosopher King"? And it was the democracy of Athens that sentenced Socrates to that draught of hemlock for corrupting (with ideas) the youth of Athens.

Levinson ties complicated knots in the tapestry of time, and reasonably, because the book IS a time travel novel, it does not proceed in anything resembling a linear fashion. Sometimes a character's motivation doesn't quite make sense. Why does Sierra Waters allow herself to be drawn into this Plot? Sure, she is pursuing a Doctorate in Ionic languages, and when a strange anachronistic document comes into her possession, what then possesses HER to hare off across time in a quixotic attempt to save Socrates from himself?

The book is a heady brew of philosophy, adventure, and violence. I did have a problem determining why the "highly trained special agents" die like flies when they attack the protagonists but perhaps time is not blind and there is some direction at core, if only from the forces of history.

I very much enjoyed the book, and the philosophical points Levinson is making are good ones. Critical thought, the value and problems inherent in democracy, and how the written word can enhance as well diminish.

Good book, Mr. Levinson. Well worth reading. For more about Paul Levinson and what he is up to, visit

Copyright © 2006 Jerry Wright and Bewildering Stories

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